WXYZ — "He told me to get down on the ground and stop looking at him, stop talking, he was going to shoot us," Joan Bates explained through tears.
Bates is the owner of The Celebration Station, a balloon store on 6 Mile near Middlebelt in Livonia.
The family-owned business is known for spreading cheer throughout the community, but that cheer quickly turned into terror Sunday afternoon.
Two men entered the store claiming they needed to buy party supplies for their niece.
Their faces were covered with bandanas; only their eyes were showing. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bates didn't think twice about it.
That changed when one of the men put the store owner in a chokehold and announced a robbery.
"The other gentleman had brought the little girl over and laid her on the ground -- and to see the tears in a 6-year-old's eyes in a balloon shop is something you never expect. You never want to have to endure," Bates told 7 Action News.
In just moments, Bates, her adult niece, the 6-year-old girl and the little girl's mother were all on the ground.
The thieves said they had a gun and repeatedly threatened to use it until they were sure they had collected all the money in the store.
They even went as far as using balloon ribbon to tie up the store owner and her niece.
The two men eventually took off with cash, the customer's cell phone, and the store owner's sense of safety.
Fortunately, none of the victims were hurt.
The store does not have cameras, mainly because Bates never dreamed someone would rob a neighborhood balloon shop. Now, her family is forced to consider equipping the shop with surveillance.
If you saw anything suspicious around 12:30pm in the area of 6 Mile and Middlebelt on Sunday, September 12, you're urged to contact Livonia Police.
Police provided this description of the suspects:
Suspect #1 is described as being a black male, 5’7”, medium build, approximately 40 years old, last seen wearing black pants, a red hooded sweatshirt, black shoes and a bandana over his face.
Suspect #2 is described as being a black male, 6’1”, medium build, approximately 30 years old, last seen wearing black pants, a red hooded sweatshirt, black shoes and a bandana over his face.